Worldwide 108.4 million people were forcibly displaced by the end of 2022 (UNHCR, 2023). Of them, over 6.6 million reside in Europe (World Bank, 2022). European countries like Italy and the United Kingdom, considered receiving countries, have been experiencing changes in the ethnic, cultural and religious composition of their populations. At the same time, the Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) sector has acquired an ever-increasing significance claiming sport’s positive social change function. Specifically, its potential use in fostering social inclusion of forced migrants and peaceful societal cohesion.

This exhibition shows the impact of football on the development of the senses of belonging of forced migrants in Scotland and Italy. Particularly, if and to what extent playing football had a potentially positive effect in fostering their senses of belonging. Belonging however can entail various aspects. The elements fundamental to enhancing the senses of belonging considered in the study supporting this exhibition are the re-creation of the senses of home, the development of friendship networks and the overcoming of potential language barriers. Finally, in assessing the extent to which football could be perceived by participants as so important that its absence could negatively impact their lives, the COVID-19 global pandemic related lockdowns have also been contemplated.

The four refugee football teams involved are the following:
  • Football Support Group in Glasgow, Scotland
  • Liberi Nantes FC in Rome, Italy
  • YEPP Albenga in Albenga, Italy
  • St. Ambroeus FC in Milan, Italy

The methodology used is a visual-based method, followed up by interviews. The photos were taken by the refugees themselves – who thanks to the participatory method used – became co-researchers. The meanings of each photo and titles that caption them were also provided by the refugees who took part in this research.*


Where is home?’ or ‘what does home mean to you?’, ‘when or where do you feel at home?
To what extent does the possibility of doing something this research participants have always loved – such as playing football – help them to feel at home in the new country?


Is the football space a social place where it is possible to make friends? If so, do these networks of friendship break down potential cultural and religious barriers? Do they foster senses of belonging to the team and/or the community?



The exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic provided the opportunity to better understand the impact the “absence of football” comported.

*Please note that pseudonyms are used throughout the photo exhibition.